Habana milestone almost unnoticed

Star SA winger now leading one-tier nation try-scorer in test rugby

BRYAN Habana’s 65th test tr y‚ scored against Argentina in Salta at the weekend‚ almost went unnoticed in the fallout over another chastening loss for the Springboks.

The star’s 45th-minute strike was a typically predatory finish after a sublime behind-the-back pass from flank Francois Louw.

It was a score that also gave the Boks hope that they would escape with another narrow win.

In the end they lost 26-24 to the Pumas, but few players put in as much effort as the veteran wing.

Coach Allister Coetzee recalled Habana, 33, for the Rugby Championship because he wanted the 119-test cap player to guide and mentor inexperienced teammates.

Habana did more than that on Saturday ‚ when he became the leading try-scorer in test rugby from a tier-one nation.

His try also marked his 20th touchdown in the Rugby Championship – another record.

Habana’s 65th try took him clear of Australia’s David Campese, although Japan’s Daisuke Ohata is still the official try-scoring record holder with 68 in 59 “tests”.

Campese scored his tries in 101 tests for the Wallabies. Habana’s first try came on debut as a 21-year-old substitute against England in 2004.

Starting as an inside centre, he added two more tries the following weekend, when the Boks beat Scotland 45-10. A week later, Habana started at left wing for the first time – against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

He failed to score, but a long love affair with the No 11 jersey had begun. Habana’s strike rate remained impressive in his first full test season in 2005, as he added six tries in three tests the following June against France and Uruguay.

He scored four tries in two tests against the French – and added two against the hapless Uruguay.

His first try in the Tri-Nations- Rugby Championship followed during a 33-20 win over theWallabies at Ellis Park – and he opened his account against New Zealand later that season in Dunedin.

Habana has so far has scored nine tries in 22 tests against Australia and seven tries in 23 tests against the All Blacks.

He went on to become the leading try scorer at the 2007 World Cup, with eight tries, and he was named World Player of Year.

He is now the joint leading World Cup try-scorer alongside Jonah Lomu with 15, after further tournaments in 2011 and 2015.

Against Samoa in 2007, Habana scored four tries – the first time he had scored more than two in a test.

He has subsequently scored hattricks against Australia [at Loftus in 2012] and the USA [at London’s Olympic Stadium in 2015].

Habana equalled the Bok test tryscoring record of 38 against Italy in June 2010 and had to wait m o re than a year and 11 tests before he broke Joost van der Westhuizen’s record, against Namibia at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Against Samoa at Loftus in 2013‚ Habana scored twice to move to 50 tries in test rugby in 86 tests.

He was only the fourth player from a tier-one nation to score 50 tries after Campese‚ Wales wing Shane Williams and England wing Rory Underwood.

Habana is well clear of active players pursuing his record. New Zealand’s Julian Savea has scored 41 tries in 45 tests and Australia’s Adam Ashley-Cooper is on 37 in 116 tests.